Easy to prepare and easy to combine with various sauces and toppings – this makes pasta one of the all-time favorite foods around the world.
Spaghetti, penne, farfalle, fettuccine, linguine, lasagne, fusilli, ravioli, macaroni, you name it – pasta is versatile and delights most people.
Given the many ways of cooking it, have you ever wondered how it is like eating raw pasta? Is it safe to eat raw pasta? In this article, we will analyze what pasta consists of and the consequences of its intake when not correctly cooked.
What is pasta and where does it come from?
Pasta is one of the most well-known foods in the world, being a common meal in different cultures across the globe. It is however a traditional Italian cereal‐based food typically made of unleavened dough of durum wheat flour mixed with water.
That is it, as simple as that, with only two ingredients you can have pasta formed into various shapes and forms, being finished cooked by boiling or baking.
It contains different micronutrients and macronutrients, mainly carbohydrates, protein, and low fat. The texture quality and physical characteristics of the final product, however, will vary greatly if eggs are added, or if it is made of different types of flour.
Escaping the traditional durum wheat flour, pasta can be produced from distinct cereals such as maize, rice, oats, nuts, and sorghum. The addition of these cereal flours can possibly change the texture, flavor, nutritional value, and color of the pasta.
Although being made of the same ingredients mostly, differences in each step of pasta manufacturing can result in the development of different types of pasta with distinct characteristics.
Durum wheat pasta is however the most commonly available type of pasta all over the world and it has always been preferred for the production of pasta because of the uniform particle size and the good textural properties it gives to the final product.
Popular in European countries, pasta is also one of the favorite and most consumed foods in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, the United States of America, Mexico, Canada, Singapore, Philippines, South Africa, and China.
Why is it considered one of the most popular foods worldwide? Pasta is popular mainly because it is accessible, convenient to prepare, versatile, and has nutritional value, being very easy to please most taste buds.
Can you eat raw pasta?
Raw pasta rarely causes any fatal health complications. In that sense, it is extremely safe to eat raw pasta. However, it is not healthy to be consumed like that. It mainly depends on the amount of pasta you consume, and how often you consume it.
Pasta is a high-energy food that contains elevated amounts of carbohydrates, moderate protein, and low fat.
Eating raw pasta every now and then as a snack will not cause any issues, but a large amount and long-term consumption could cause health complications. If you eat too much raw pasta or eat it frequently, you will risk putting yourself in dietary deficiencies.
Raw pasta is believed to contain a large number of phytates and lectins, which are well-known anti-nutrients.
Anti-nutrients are plant compounds that decrease the ability of your body to absorb essential nutrients, leading to the malfunction of the whole body system. These anti-nutrients harm the intestinal linings, unsettle enzymatic pathways, and even cause intensive inflammations on the body.
Take the example of Phytates. Phytic acid is something that is found predominantly in seeds, grains, and legumes that bind with minerals like iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium making them unavailable for absorption into your bloodstream.
It is because of this chemical reaction that if you eat raw pasta often, you can become mineral deficient. The deficiency in iron causes anemia and could be especially risky for pregnant women since iron deficiency puts the baby at risk of developmental delays.
Deficiency in calcium causes bone and teeth decay and if this is severe or acute, it can cause muscle spasm or cramping.
Deficiency in zinc causes loss of appetite weakened immune function, and diarrhea. Deficiency in magnesium, on the other hand, causes loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and weakness.
Lectins are carbohydrate-binding proteins and are sometimes dangerous because of how they bind to carbohydrates like sugar.
Certain types of lectins can inhibit your body from absorbing other substances that have nutritional value. They are indigestible proteins that travel through the gut unchanged as they resist being broken down in the gut and are stable in an acidic environment.
High consumption of raw pasta can lead to an excess of lectins that can eventually lead to severe problems such as malnutrition, obesity, chronic inflammation, stomach upset, bloating, and also autoimmune diseases.
Intake of high amounts of lectins decreases the absorption of phosphorus which causes anxiety, bone pain, fragile bones, stiff joints, fatigue, irregular breathing, irritability, numbness, weakness, and weight change.
It is very important to remember that eating foods with a high amount of active lectins is infrequent. One reason is that lectins are most potent in their raw state, and foods containing them are not typically eaten raw e.g pasta.
Raw pasta is also hard to digest. Therefore, eating a high amount of raw pasta may result in immediate gastrointestinal disorders such as pain, flatulence, and cramps.
As many recent studies have shown, durum wheat flour; the main ingredient of the production of pasta, in its refined form, is damaging to the body as it causes weight gain and is also the root cause of several diseases.
Refined wheat flour has a high glycemic index (GI) of 71. This means that it contains double the number of calories when compared to unprocessed or low Glycemic Index foods.
Wheat flour releases sugar into the bloodstream very fast and this causes an intense insulin response in the body. Over a long period of time, combined with prolonged consumption, causes insulin resistance and eventually will cause type II diabetes.
Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way the body processes blood sugar; glucose.
How to avoid or to prevent eating raw pasta?
A low intake of undercooked or raw pasta will not lead to any complications. But as we have mentioned earlier, this should not mean eating raw pasta should be encouraged, either.
So how do you prevent eating it?
The first step is how pasta is stored. Storing pasta in loose form could potentially increase the risk of contamination.
Pasta that has been in contact with different surfaces can be carrying all sorts of bacteria or fungus and this can also make you sick.
Like any other food, raw pasta can pick up microorganisms from any surface it touches. Cooking pasta at a high temperature until it boils generally kills all these different germs. Eating pasta raw puts you in danger of getting them into your body’s system.
Eating raw pasta that contains eggs puts you at risk of consuming salmonella bacteria. In such cases, it is the wheat dough that carries these bacteria.
However, undercooked pasta (as long as it is al dente) is totally safe to be eaten, as it has been heated enough to kill any possible microorganisms inside and on the surface of the pasta.
Would you still eat raw pasta?
In case you are still tempted to try raw pasta, make sure to store the dried pasta correctly.
First, keep it in a well-sealed food container and remove it from humidity and heat. This will help keep it away from bacteria and prevent fungus or mold from growing to contaminate it.
It is very unlikely that eating raw pasta would result in life-threatening illnesses. However, given the listed side effects above it is not recommended and should be greatly avoided as it does not bring any added nutritional value to your diet.